Posted By: Sherie Caffey, Pueblo County Extension horticulture coordinator
Houseplants are a great way to bring a little green into your life before the spring growing season arrives. There are many kinds of houseplants that you can grow, and they all require different conditions in order to thrive. The first step to being a good plant parent is to find out exactly what plant you are growing, and the specific conditions that make its environment optimal. There are general guidelines that you can follow to make almost any houseplant happy.
The amount of water that a houseplant needs depends on the species, size, and potting mix composition. One way to tell if your plant needs water is to feel the soil. If your plant has high moisture requirements, water when the top layer of soil starts feeling dry. If your plant prefers its roots to dry out a little between waterings, then feel the soil that is beneath the top layer, and water before it completely dries out.
Most potting mixes do not contain enough nutrients for plant growth, therefore fertilizer is needed. Look for a fertilizer that is specifically formulated for your plant, or go for an all purpose fertilizer. Always follow the instructions on the label. If you notice a white build up on the soil or the container, you may have over fertilized. If this problem occurs, run clear water with no fertilizer through your soil for the next several waterings. Make sure the container your plant is in allows water to drain.
Like any plant, houseplants can be host to nuisance insects. When buying a houseplant, inspect it for insects before bringing it home. Once the plant is home, consider quarantining it for a couple of weeks to make sure it is pest free and will not infect your healthy plants. If you notice a pest problem, contact the CSU Extension office to get specific information on control options.
Some houseplants, such as ferns, palms, and mother-in-law's tongue do well in the low light environment of most homes. Other plants will need supplemental light to thrive. You can use a light bulb designed for house plants, or you can use two 40-watt cool white fluorescent bulbs and one 40-watt incandescent bulb to achieve a good light spectrum for growing plants.
So bring a little of the outdoors in, and experiment with houseplants, you'll be glad you did!